By: Kim Tula, Family Support Counselor
For many, Easter is a fun and joy-filled holiday, but for individuals with PWS and their families and caregivers, it can also be full of worry. The anticipation of large family dinners, Easter Egg hunts, and candy-filled baskets left by the Easter Bunny can result in increased anxiety and maladaptive behaviors.
Here are some tips for celebrating the Easter holiday in a healthier, less stressful way:
- Plan and then communicate the plan. When attending church or other social gathering, consider arriving early to get a seat that will increase your loved ones’ chance of success, e.g. up front if your child wants to be able to see everything, or in the back if you need to have a quiet escape route. Also be sure to bring along quiet activities to engage your child, such as Silly Putty, puzzle books, or coloring books.
- While large family meals can be a wonderful time for bonding, they can be overstimulating and anxiety-provoking for individuals with PWS. Knowing which foods are being served in advance and discussing expectations with your loved one ahead of time can reduce stress for everyone. Bonus tip: Ask family members to prepare their own plates before bringing them to the table to help prevent an overabundance of food sitting out on the table
- When attending family gatherings but not staying for a meal, plan and communicate to your child ahead of time whether they will be allowed to have a snack or treat during the visit.
- Make decorating Easter eggs a fun event for the family without using real eggs (check out Pinterest for more ideas):
- Cut eggs out of cardboard and decorate them with crayons, markers, glitter, and glue-on gems;
- Make clay eggs that you can paint;
- Make paper eggs and dye them with shaving cream art;
- Purchase Styrofoam eggs at a craft store and dye or paint;
- Make suncatcher eggs using tissue paper.
- Fill Easter baskets with toys and games instead of candy and snacks. These toys have additional benefits your loved one with PWS:
- Jump ropes and bouncy balls encourage physical activity;
- Silly Putty, Slim, and Kinetic Sand are fun to play with and are useful for tactile sensory stimulation;
- Bubbles are great for oral motor skills and encourage the taking of deep breaths;
- Silly straws are fun and improve oral motor skills;
- Coloring books, word searches, puzzles, and puzzle books improve fine motor skills;
- Matching games and strategy games (like Connect Four) engage memory and build social skills;
- Books, movies, and music are all things a family can enjoy together.
- Everyone loves an Easter egg hunt! Rather than using real eggs, fill plastic eggs with token items such as temporary tattoos, toy cars, erasers, jewelry, small bubble bottles, or even money that can to be used to purchase a toy later.
These are just some of the many tips for having a fun and less stressful Easter holiday. Don’t be afraid to experiment to what works best for you and your loved ones. Happy Easter!